Unless of course they get really scared and start crying, so the first book on my list of "top five" Halloween books for ages three to six is Patricia Hubbard and Michael Letzig's Trick or Treat Countdown.
Of course, some scary things are real, like getting lost. I love Phyllis Root's story of how Oliver Finds His Way because when he chases a yellow leaf and can't find his way home, he "thinks and thinks" and figures out what to do. My students had all sorts of ideas about what Oliver could do, including "call 911."
He decides to roar. Will Mom and Dad hear him? Not unless your child helps him! Oh my, children do like to help Oliver roar.
Besides being just a bit scary, this book is great to read this time of year since it is set in the fall season. You can check it out by watching this fabulous reading by the Waynesboro Public Library Story Time. She starts the Oliver book at about 8:00.
Some things that aren't scary become so when a child's imagination goes to work. That's the case in Rick Walton and David H. Clark's book, A Very Hairy Scary Story. On a walk home from a friend's house after dark Sarah's imagination turns ordinary objects like mailboxes into scary things like lions. You may wonder why Sarah was walking home alone after dark. Well, she stayed too late at her friend's house, missing the time her Dad said she was to be home. Rather than facing up to that mistake she decides to trick him by walking home and sneaking in without him noticing. The children easily see the moral of this story; don't try to trick your parents! Although Sarah pays the price by being scared of the dark, there's a happy ending, complete with a Dad who comes to Sarah's rescue.
You can see some of the artwork and story on Amazon.
Skeletons are a recurring image on Halloween, providing an opportunity to share Bob Barner's lively and informative book, Dem Bones. He cleverly combines the lyrics from the old African American spiritual, his own paper collages, and simple facts about anatomy into one successful presentation about just what a skeleton is. You can see more of the book on Amazon and a fun video by Natasha Dupree of the song here.
Halloween Night by Marjorie Dennis Murray and illustrated by Brandon Dorman is full of pictures of ogres, banshees, witches, monsters, and mummies who are preparing to celebrate Halloween with a big party. The rhyming text is a parody on The Night Before Christmas":
"'Twas Halloween night, and all through the house Every creature was stirring, including the mouse; The walls were aflutter with little brown bats, While hordes of black spiders crept out of the cracks."
When ten children arrive demanding "Trick or Treat," they are invited to join the festivities but are too scared and turn and run instead: "From the ten little tricksters came ten little shrieks, And away they all ran down the cobblestone street, Dropping their bags and spilling their treats."
While the story is clever, and adults will appreciate the parody, it is the illustrations that make this book so interesting. Brandon Dorman's images use an unusual perspective and vibrant colors that pull you into each scene, while his abundance of detail invite you to look again and again. There is just so much to see!
You could spend hours browsing Brandon Dorman's website. He has illustrated the covers of many young adult fantasy books and illustrated or written several picture books, including one with a religious theme, In the Garden, published by Deseret Books.
Of all the holidays, I do think Halloween is my favorite in terms of reading to children.